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What are the best places to live when you’re young and eager to make your mark? We picked our 20 great cities that could change your life.

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35 & Under: Where will you make your mark?

The number of people living in cities is at an all-time high. Why? A full 73 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 35 (the infamous Millennials) with a college education are living in cities.

“Americans are experiencing an urban renaissance of unanticipated proportions, as young people graduate college and flock to cities, delaying buying a home and perhaps rejecting the suburban ideal altogether,” Sam Frizell writes at TIME.com. “(N)et migration was the largest contributor to population growth in all but five of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas. Census data (shows) that metropolitan areas across the country grew at a faster rate last year than the rest of the country, with cities like Austin, Texas and Seattle, Washington growing especially swiftly.”

See our list of the 20 best places to live in the U.S. when you’re just starting out

Are they snatching up the available housing stock? Not exactly — the median cost of a home in the U.S. is $188,900, which can be a steep point of entry for a young person or young family just starting out, especially considering that real median household income numbers have fallen by 6.5 percent since 2007.

As a result, many are renting — multifamily housing was the dwelling space of choice for 33% of new housing starts in 2013.

Millennial Housing: The Recession and the growing need for rentals

Young adults are flocking to urban areas in droves, reenergizing cities like San Antonio, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; and, believe it or not, Detroit, Michigan. But — at this moment in history — they’re not buying houses like the generations before them.

Consider that the oldest millennials were in their mid-20s when the Great Recession hit in 2007. These young people saw their economic opportunities smack into a wall harder than any generation since the 1930s.

Nina Glinkski of Bloomberg.com notes that this economic catastrophe traumatized young people in four key ways:

  1. They may never make as much money as previous generations.
  2. They are hesitant to leave low-paying jobs because they’ve tasted unemployment.
  3. They are terrified of the stock market.
  4. The cost of their education is an economic ball and chain — they carry, on average, student debt to the tune of $28,400.

In fact, the number of 18 to 34-year-olds living with their parents increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2014. Despite these alarming income statistics, 60 percent of 2015 grads said they’d rather work for a company that has a positive social atmosphere, even if it means lower pay. But while a cool happy hour on Friday afternoon is nice, it does not make home buying easier.

And while income’s not the only issue, it’s still an issue — a paycheck’s simply not what it used to be. Although the median income in the U.S. is $51,939, the Federal Reserve found that people under 35 were taking in a median of $35,300 per year in 2014, compared to $38,900 in 1995 and $43,900 in 2001. That’s a 20 percent dip.

What young Americans want from the best places to live

Young adults seem to love moving to cities, where colleges, jobs and entertainment (and the public transportation that can quickly and cheaply get them around) are readily accessible. The number of college-educated young people living within three miles of city centers has surged 37 percent since 2000, even as the total population of these neighborhoods has shrunk.

What does this new generation of urban-dwellers want in their cities? “Two public opinion polls came out…suggesting the kinds of places Millennials like,” Anthony Flint of CityLab.com writes. “Spoiler alert: it’s Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, as well as communities such as — I’m inclined to say once again, of course — Boulder and Austin. The key characteristics seem to be walkability, good schools and parks, and the availability of multiple transportation options.”

The best 20 places for millennials to live

As we built our list for the best places to live if you’re under the age of 35, we weighed several factors, including:

  • The size of the 18-to-34-year-old population. It’s nice to be around peers.
  • The cost of a single-family home. A key factor in settling down.
  • The median income in the area. Always important.
  • The cost of living index. Based on the premise that 100 is average, the cost of living index shows greater affordability when the number is lower than 100, and the opposite is true when it’s over 100. Keep in mind, however, that a low cost of living index may go hand-in-hand with a weak job market, endemic poverty and the issues that such problems create.
  • Amenities. Walkability, cyclability, public transportation, recreational activities and nightlife were our biggest considerations.
  • The availability of jobs. If you can’t work, you won’t go there — or stay.
  • Public schools. A concern for every parent or parent-to-be.
  • Crime. It affects everyone.
  • Weather. Let’s just say snow was a factor.
  • Proximity of major colleges and universities. A great launching pad for the young adults into any city.

As a result, some of the best places to live that we chose for young adults can be quite expensive — I’m looking at you, Sunnyvale, California and you, Bellevue, Washington — but these places are also often dripping with desirable amenities and high-paying jobs to help compensate for the higher cost of living.

On the other hand, a city like Clarksville, Tennessee or Baton Rouge, Louisiana may have some glaring issues, but other factors — like the weather in Clarksville or the presence of a great university in Baton Rouge — lifted them to our list.


Our methodology

For each city that made our list, we ranked them using eight key categories (Residents 18-34, Population, Median Home Value, Median Household Income, Cost of Living Index and Unemployment Rate, Industries and Attractions.) and ranked the cities from 1 to 20. The score for each category was then added together. We also took two “soft” categories — Industries and Attractions — and ranked each on a subjective scale of 1 to 5 based on the desirability of the Industries and the “cool” factor of the Attractions in-market. These numbers were added to the sum from the previous six categories and the lowest cumulative score was ranked first, second-lowest second and so on.

City Rank Score Notes
Pittsburgh, Pa. 1 47 Low cost of living, affordable housing and a solid economy pushed Pittsburgh to the top.
Des Moines, Iowa 2 52 High HH income and low housing costs buoyed Des Moines.
Austin, Texas 3 54 A low unemployment rate and heavy cool factor worked in Austin’s favor.
Salt Lake City, Utah 4 56 Big city, low cost of living and vibrant job market.
Cambridge, Mass. 5 58 Expensive? Yes – but HH income is high and the proximity to Boston helps.
Madison, Wisc. 6 61 Madison near the top of a great cities list? Par for the course for the Wisc. capital.
Ann Arbor, Mich. 7 61 Low HH income, likely due to the large student population. Mom’s credit card doesn’t count as income.
Atlanta, Ga. 8 61 Biggest, most cosmopolitan city on the list is suprisingly – perhaps shockingly – affordable.
Provo, Utah 9 63 Lots of young people, very affordable, but it’s small.
Tempe, Ariz. 10 63 Youthful population, cost of living is very reasonable and a genuinely fun city.
Baton Rouge, La. 11 66 Low housing costs and cost of living offset by income, unemployment concerns.
Alexandria, Va. 12 67 Great city, great location, super-expensive.
Clarksville, Tenn. 13 70 Cost of living is nice but attractions, cool jobs rank lower than others on list.
Rochester, Minn. 14 72 Lowest unemployment rate on the list.
Buffalo, N.Y. 15 74 Surprisingly high cost of living (NYS taxes!); Millennial population growing but still less than others.
Charleston, S.C. 16 77 Beautiful city, unemployment rate is a bit high.
Bellevue, Wash. 17 84 Probably the best amentities/attractions on the list.
Providence, R.I. 18 86 Unemployment rate is uncomfortably high.
Denver, Colo. 19 87 Surprised to see Denver this low; very hip city right now.
Sunnyvale, Calif. 20 97 Amazing jobs, but an expensive place to settle down.


1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Residents 18-34:  21%
Actual population: 2,358,746
Median home value: $124,800
Median household income: $50,935
Cost of living Index: 76
Unemployment rate: 4.9%

Popular industries: It may be called the Steel City but local industry now focuses on health care, the high-tech sector and bureaucracy. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, federal, state and local governments and Westinghouse Electric are big employers.

Attractions: A mecca for sports fans, Pittsburgh is home to the Steelers (NFL), Penguins (NHL) and Pirates (MLB) as well as the competitive athletic programs at the University of Pittsburgh. The Buccos, as the Pirates are called, play in PNC Park, considered by many to be the best stadium in baseball. The Bloomfield neighborhood is known as Little Italy, Mt. Washington is famous for its panoramic views and you’ll never struggle to find new places to eat or drink in South Side — often quite cheaply.

Why Pittsburgh? The tough winters and industrial heritage belie a gruff but friendly city with thriving intellectual and cultural scenes. An affordable housing market coupled with rents nearly 25% less than the national average, a surplus of great schools like Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and Pitt plus vibrant, neighborhoods make Pittsburgh an outstanding place to spend your days.


2. Des Moines, Iowa

Residents 18-34: 24%
Actual population: 580,913
Median home value: $156,400
Median household income: $60,750
Cost of living Index: 98
Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Popular industries:  Financial industries, insurance and health care play major roles in the Des Moines economy. Top employers include Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group, Nationwide, Mercer and UnityPoint Health. A growing tech scene has earned Des Moines membership in the “Silicon Prairie” club.

Attractions: Jester Park and Saylorville Lake, the Prairie Meadows Casino and Racetrack, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, the 515 Brewing Company and nearby wineries each offer Des Moines residents unique visions of recreation.

Why Des Moines? Des Moines offers an affordable housing market, low unemployment and a competitive median household income, all good things when you’re young and starting out on your own. Consider a potential day in the life in Des Moines: after working on your startup at Gravitate — an entrepreneurial center and coworking space downtown — you go for a nice run out by Saylorville Lake. You head back into town to load up on protein at Jethro’s BBQ or nosh on duck and chocolate ganache at Django. You and your pals then spend the night passing the notorious boot at Hessen Haus, chilling at the artsy Des Moines Social Club, catching an indie band at Wooly’s or sipping coffee and snacking on vegetarian eats at Ritual Cafe while planning a pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair.


3. Austin, Texas

Residents 18-34:  34%
Actual population: 836,800
Median home value: $220,500
Median household income: $53,946
Cost of living Index: 103
Unemployment rate: 5.4%

Popular industries: Diversity is the name of the game in Austin employment. The Austin Independent School District and the city of Austin are major employers. So are tech giants Dell, IBM and Apple. Seton Healthcare and St. David’s Healthcare Partnership employ several thousand Austinites. The University of Texas provides a healthy percentage of local jobs, too. Hook ‘em Horns!

Attractions: Austin is known for its fantastic, affordable food, rollicking music scene, mind-bending arts community and the gorgeous expanses of natural landscape that surround the city. The University of Texas provides major college sports, arts and academics while the presence of the Texas state capitol (and its beautiful grounds smack in the middle of the city) means real-life drama unfolds every day.

Why Austin? Let’s pretend you were inventing a city from scratch. You’d want lots of jobs at cool companies and institutions, affordable housing, a great downtown, a world-class university, fantastic weather, cultural diversity and a terrific sense of history. You’d throw in a few massive festivals, mouth-watering food and a college football team capable of winning a national championship. That’s Austin. Traffic aside — and where is traffic not an issue? — this city is almost perfect for people fresh out of school and eager to grip life by the horns.


4. Salt Lake City, Utah

Residents 18-34: 27%
Actual population: 1,107,434
Median home value: $228,700
Median household income: $60,616
Cost of living Index: 95
Unemployment rate: 5.5%

Popular industries: Finance, real estate and government play huge roles in the Salt Lake City economy. American Express, Prestige Financial, Discover Financial Services, Clyde Companies and Xactware Solutions are a few of the large Salt Lake City businesses that get high marks from their employees.

Attractions: Home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City is packed with historical spots important to Mormons around the globe. Temple Square is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. The Salt Lake City Tabernacle is the home base of the legendary Mormon Tabernacle Choir. While Salt Lake is often stereotyped, revelers can still enjoy a night out at Beer Hive Pub, Bar-X or the Tavernacle Social Club, among other stops.

Why Salt Lake City?  Safe, affordable and prosperous, Salt Lake City is carving out a reputation as an outstanding spot to live, work and start a family. It’s significantly less expensive than Denver (with nearly twice the annual household income), is a bit milder in terms of climate than Madison and has a tech scene that, like fellow Utah up-and-comer Provo, is taking lift-off. The presence of the mountains and rugged Western countryside provide ample recreational opportunities and the University of Utah offers outstanding educational and athletic experiences.


5. Cambridge, Massachusetts

Residents 18-34:  47%
Actual population: 105,737
Median home value: $532,400
Median household income: $72,529
Cost of living Index: 144
Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Popular industries: Education, government and medtech are big in Cambridge. Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research are major employers, as is the Cambridge city government.

Attractions: Cambridge is a first-tier suburb of Boston, a metropolis packed with cultural, entertainment and lifestyle options that trump most American metros. Cambridge itself is loaded with take-a-selfie destinations like Harvard University, the Charles River and Kendall Square.

Why Cambridge? Cambridge is perhaps the platonic ideal of a college town: beautiful, historic, sedate and diverse. The presence of internationally-acclaimed universities like Harvard and MIT, a burgeoning tech scene and the proximity to Boston keep a never-ending spigot of young people flowing into the city. Despite its status as one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, Cambridge remains a hotspot for some of America — and the world’s — most talented 18-to-34-year-olds.


6. Madison, Wisconsin

Residents 18-34 39%
Actual population: 237,395
Median home value: $214,100
Median household income: $53,464
Cost of Living index: 113
Unemployment rate: 4.7%

Popular industries: As the state capital and home to the University of Wisconsin, major employers in Madison include the government, the school and the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. Energy is also a big deal in Madison — Spectrum Brands, Alliant Energy, MGE Energy and Sub-Zero and Wolf Appliance hang their hat in the capital.

Attractions: Madison has thriving indie music, art, classical music and theater scenes. University of Wisconsin football, hockey and basketball are major sources of civic pride. Several examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work can be found throughout the city, and  State Street is a legendary party district.

Why Madison? Madison has been praised as one of the best places in the U.S. to live for several decades. It’s not only affordable but has experienced excellent job growth over the past few years. Madison is a hot location for Millennials for its modest-sized homes, affordable cost of living and a plethora of attractions and entertainment options for all ages.


7. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Residents 18-34:  47%
Actual population: 115,331
Median home value: $230,700
Median household income: $26,085
Cost of living Index: 95
Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Popular industries: Schools, and the institutions associated with those schools, dominate the Ann Arbor economy. The University of Michigan, the University of Michigan Health Center, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College make up six of the region’s top 10 employers. Auto industry leaders Toyota, Ford, Faurecia and JAC Products are also large-scale employers.

Attractions: The University of Michigan offers everything from top-notch arts, theater and cultural programs to big-time college athletics. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum and the Michigan Theater are popular destinations. Main Street and Kerrytown are great places to see, be seen and shop, and Detroit is only an hour away.

Why Ann Arbor? Quaint, collegiate and charming, Ann Arbor is considered one of the great university cities in the U.S. According to AnnArbor.com, the city has been ranked in the top 10 for America’s happiest cities, best cities for finding a job and best cities for recent college graduates. You’ll need that job — Ann Arbor is expensive, requiring a $68,140-per-year household income for a family of four to get by — but the presence of a major university and a mix of everything that makes college life memorable keeps people around Ann Arbor until, well, they have college-age kids of their own.


8. Atlanta, Georgia

Residents 18-34: 35%
Actual population:  5,379,176
Median home value: $170,400
Median household income: $46,631
Cost of living Index: 105
Unemployment rate: 7.9%

Popular industries: A city known for its diversity also has a diverse employment base. Top employers include Delta Air Lines, AT&T, Emory University, Cox Enterprises and UPS — an airline, a communications company, a university, a media conglomerate and a logistics/supply chain giant. That’s a nice mix, and just the start.

Attractions: Atlanta has big-time professional sports, amazing events like the National Black Arts Festival, the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival, the Inman Park Festival, Music Midtown and the A3C Hip Hop Festival. The city also has historic destinations ranging from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to Centennial Olympic Park. It’s a hub for shopping, nightlife and dining.

Why Atlanta? Atlanta is booming as newcomers flock to the metro region for its growing economy and urban energy. Home to a vibrant business scene, major universities, a racially diverse population with lots of young people — 49% of Atlantans are 34 or younger — coupled with a bevy of beautiful neighborhoods, affordable suburbs and endlessly warm weather, Atlanta is a mecca for millennials looking to build new and exciting lives.

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9. Provo, Utah

Residents 18-34: 54%
Actual population: 114,179
Median home value: $198,700
Median household income: $39,688
Cost of living Index:  89
Unemployment rate: 5.4%

Popular industries: Brigham Young University is a major employer, as are Nu Skin Enterprises, home security giant Vivint, the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and, interestingly, Ancestry.com.

Attractions: The American Freedom Festival attracts tens of thousands of patrons, as do athletic and cultural events at BYU.  Provo Canyon and Bridal Veil Falls appeal to nature lovers, and winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are popular and accessible. Nearby Park City is home to the influential Sundance Film Festival.

Why Provo? Provo has a low crime rate and boasts affordable housing, a low unemployment rate and a huge population of young people. The Utah Valley is home to a blossoming economy and burgeoning tech scene that makes it one of the most viable spots in the entire nation. With its beautiful and historical sites, Provo is a great place to live and will serve as an enviable destination for your visiting friends and family.


10. Tempe, Arizona

Residents 18-34:  43%
Actual population: 164,742
Median home value: $200,800
Median household income: $47,491 individual
Cost of living Index: 99
Unemployment rate: 6.2%

Popular industries: Education, retailers and researchers are integral to the Tempe economy. Top employers include Arizona State University, Maricopa County Community College, Safeway and Freescale Semiconductor.

Attractions: The Tempe Marketplace offers various restaurants, water parks, and entertainment. Tempe Town Lake, the Mill Avenue District and Gammage Auditorium, a theatre designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, are popular destinations. Tempe is also minutes from Phoenix, the sixth largest city in the U.S.

Why Tempe? With low crime rates, gorgeous (hot!) weather and close proximity to nearby Phoenix, there’s a lot to love about Tempe.  Over forty-four percent of Tempe’s population own their own home,  giving the city a close-knit feel to complement its trendy downtown scene. Home to Arizona State University, ample public transit and a fast-growing tech scene, it’s no surprise Tempe is well-loved by Millennials.


11. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Residents 18-34:  27%
Actual population: 808,816
Median home value: $158,100
Median household income: $25,874
Cost of living Index: 96
Unemployment rate: 5.2%

Popular industries: The Baton Rouge economy is buoyed by the presence of the state capitol and Louisiana State University. Turner Industries, CB&I and ExxonMobil Chemical, each with ties to the crucial Gulf oil industry, are also crucially important to the city’s economic health.

Attractions: The cultural scene is paced by LSU and an assortment of other fixtures like the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Shaw Center for the Arts and Baton Rouge River Center. Southeastern Conference football and Division I sports are major considerations, of course. Like nearby New Orleans, Mardi Gras in Baton Rouge is a wild affair.  The historic Old Louisiana State Capitol, with its signature spiral staircase and glass dome, is a must-see. Like gambling? Great — casinos are legal.

Why Baton Rouge? High crime rates, heavy traffic and below-average incomes may make some young people raise an eyebrow at Baton Rouge. However, the power of LSU and the state capitol and the danger and romance of the oil industry can be seductive.  Add the color and history of the city, the proximity to New Orleans and the overall affordability and Baton Rouge can easily be seen as an exciting place to start adulthood. It’s a great place to eke out a few extra years of the college lifestyle.


12. Alexandria, Virginia

Residents 18-34:  31%
Actual population: 143,684
Median home value: $476,700
Median household income: $85,706
Cost of living Index: 121
Unemployment rate: 4%

Popular Industries: This suburb of Washington, D.C. is home to thousands of U.S. government employees. Inova Health System, the Institute for Defense Analysis and Grant Thornton LLP are major private industry employers.

Attractions: Alexandria is seven miles from Washington, D.C. and all the nation’s capital has to offer. Alexandria itself is extremely historic, offering buffs everything from Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home to the beautiful Second Empire architecture of City Hall. Port City Brewing Company pours award-winning suds, boutique shopping on King Street is plentiful and you can find anything in West End from symphonic performances to farmers’ markets.

Why Alexandria? This city is not cheap — but it is one of the Top 100 Communities for Young People, according to America’s Promise, due in large part to its excellent and diverse public school system. In fact, according to Livability.com, “Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, located in Fairfax County, ranks No.4 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best high schools in the nation.” Alexandria is walkable, a haven for foodies and charmingly historic — all great for young people who are interested in starting families and enjoying life while tapping into the often-lucrative D.C. job market.


13. Clarksville, Tennessee

Residents 18-34: 33%
Actual population: 137,145
Median home value: $135,600
Median household income: $47,092
Cost of living index: 94
Unemployment rate: 7%

Popular industries: Montgomery County and the city of Clarksville employs thousands of locals, but so do manufacturers like the Trane Company, Bridgestone Metalpha USA and Akebono. Austin Peay State University and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System are also major providers of jobs in the region.

Attractions: Clarksville Speedway will get your adrenaline pumping while Beachaven Vineyards and Winery can help you cool off. Clarksville hosts an annual jazz festival, the Miss and Mrs. Tennessee United States Pageants, an Oktoberfest celebration, a winter’s market and a Christmas parade. The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a short drive away and Dunbar Caves gets rave reviews. Nashville and Louisville, are easy day trips from Clarksville.

Why Clarksville? Affordable housing, an abundance of young people and a low cost of living make Clarksville — the fifth-largest city in one of America’s most underrated states —  an increasingly attractive option for people under the age of 35 who are looking for jobs, houses and a pleasant climate. Clarksville is historic with a quaint, tidy downtown district and the presence of the Cumberland River adds a nice touch.


14. Rochester, Minnesota

Residents 18-34:  25%
Actual population: 108,179
Median home value: $163,700
Median household income: $62,575
Cost of living Index: 134
Unemployment rate: 3.2%

Popular industries: The world-renowned Mayo Clinic and electronics/computer monolith IBM each help buoy the Rochester economy. The Rochester Public School system, Olmsted County and the city of Rochester are also responsible for thousands of jobs. Cable TV provider Charter Communications, regional construction/transportation leader McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing and metal fabricators Crenlo put food on the table of numerous Rochesterians, too.

Attractions: Rochester is about 90 miles from the megalopolis of Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is convenient, but there are things to do away from the Twin Cities, as well. Quarry Hill Nature Center is a nice place to get outdoors and stretch your legs; Salem Glen Vineyard and Winery is a nice place to get outdoors and drink. Silver Lake offers ample boating and fishing opportunities. The Mayo Civic Center hosts national touring artists as well as a bevy of events of local interest. The annual Rochesterfest brings the city together each summer for a week of cultural, entertainment and sometimes delightfully silly activities.

Why Rochester? The cost of living is a little high in Rochester, but incomes are well above the national average, the unemployment rate is low and houses are affordable — all attractive features to anyone out of school or looking to settle down to start a family. An excellent school system, low crime rates and the joys of life outdoors (even in the harsh Minnesota winters!) combine to make Rochester feel like something out of a Peanuts cartoon — which, incidentally, were crafted by Minnesota native Charles M. Schultz.


15. Buffalo, NY

Residents 18-34: 22%
Actual population: 1,134,695
Median home value: $120,700
Median household income: $50,210
Cost of living index: 113
Unemployment rate: 6%

Popular industries: New York State and SUNY Buffalo are major employers, as are health care giants Kaleida Health and Catholic Health. M&T Bank, frozen food pioneer Rich Products and motion control innovator Moog, Inc. are also local leaders. Buffalo has a growing medical and tech startup scene.

Attractions: Buffalo has shed its Rust Belt reputation in recent years as new investment and development culminated in a rebuilt waterfront, a vibrant downtown district, trendy neighborhoods and a newfound sense of “Buffalove” that embraces all things local, from foods to festivals to family traditions. Buffalonians are also quick to boast about their architecture, arts scene and love of live music.

Why Buffalo? Houses are relatively inexpensive, the job market is improving and the city lacks the traffic, high rents and commuting issues that plague other big American metros. The presence of nearly a dozen colleges and universities adds culture and vitality to Buffalo. A cornucopia of new breweries, bars and restaurants have made Buffalo an affordable destination for Epicureans. Buffalo is transforming into a cutting-edge place to live and launch a career — something that could not have been said even a decade ago. OK, yes – we’re a little biased. Life Storage calls Buffalo home!


16. Charleston, South Carolina

Residents 18-34: 34%
Actual population:  123,267
Median home value: $253,800
Median household income: $51, 737
Cost of living Index: 102
Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Popular industries: Health care careers are big in Charleston, home to the Medical University of South Carolina, Trident Health System and Roper St. Francis Hospital. Boeing South Carolina and Robert Bosch are major industrial employers and the tourism industry provides job for thousands.

Attractions: Charleston’s historic Battery and Rainbow Row are popular downtown destinations. Gorgeous oceanfront stretches on the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach are well-loved and rarely empty. Restaurants, like Slighty North of Broad and FIG, have made Charleston a destination for gourmands.

Why Charleston? With steady job growth, falling unemployment rates and exploding suburbs, Charleston is a great place for the 35-and-under crowd, pairing safety with an inviting, historical downtown scene and various entertainment options. Several colleges — including Charleston Southern, MUSC, The Citadel and the College of Charleston — dot the landscape. And the weather! If you can put up with the occasional hurricane, you’ll luxuriate in a climate where seasonal lows are around 60° F.


17. Bellevue, Washington

Residents 18-34:  25%
Actual population: 129,209
Median home value: $525,000
Median household income: $44,748
Cost of living Index: 116
Unemployment rate: 4.9%

Popular industries: Bellevue is about 10 miles from Redmond, the home to Nintendo, Microsoft and video game developer Valve. Bellevue is also close to Seattle and that city’s red-hot job market. You don’t have to travel, though: travel giant Expedia is located in Bellevue, as are well-respected businesses like SmartSheet.com, Concur Technologies, Evergreen Home Loans and Northwest Cadence.

Attractions: The ocean! The mountains! Seattle! Canada! Bellevue is conveniently located near one of the coolest cities in the U.S., surrounded by world-class skiing and outdoor sports venues and mere miles from the Canadian border. It’s less than three hours from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Why Bellevue? While it’s not necessarily inexpensive, Bellevue offers young people safety, access to great jobs and the opportunity to enjoy an unbeatable lifestyle during their downtime. Bellevue has an excellent school system and, according to USA Today, is the second-best city in the United States to live. Bellevue boasts a significant Asian population and, while somewhat rainy, has a pleasant, mild climate that lacks the extreme heat of the American South or the brutal cold of the Northeast.


18. Providence, Rhode Island

Residents 18-34: 37%
Actual population: 178,056
Median home value: $196,300
Median household income: $37,632
Cost of living Index: 118
Unemployment rate: 9.8%

Popular industries: Education is big — Brown University and Providence College provide jobs for over 5,000 people. Health care organizations like Rhode Island Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, Miriam Hospital and Butler Hospital all help fuel the economy. The Belo Corporation, owner of The Providence Journal, employees nearly 900 people.

Attractions: The Trinity Repertory Company is one of America’s finest theater groups and classical music enthusiasts can enjoy the sweet sounds of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. Great burgers and, not surprisingly, great seafood are staples of the food scene. WaterFire — a series of bonfires lit on the city’s three downtown rivers — has turned into a big, multi-month celebration.

Why Providence? High unemployment, a crime rate above the national average and low household income would seem to dent Providence’s reputation, but the presence of two great institutions of higher learning, stunning architecture, stellar restaurants and an excellent arts and cultural scene boost the historic Atlantic burg. Housing and rent are affordable, and the colorful indie scene is enviable from bands to bookstores. Providence has a vibrant gay community, which can be great for young people looking for diversity.


19. Denver, Colorado

Residents 18-34:  25%
Actual population: 2,601,465
Median home value: $247,800
Median household income: $32,373
Cost of living Index: 121
Unemployment rate: 6%

Popular industries: Government on all levels — city, county and state, as well as the public education system — are the major employers in Denver. Health is another huge field, as the HealthONE Corporation, SCL Health System, Centura Health and Denver Health are all top-12 employers. Lockheed Martin, Kaiser Permanente and Comcast are responsible for several thousand Denver jobs.

Attractions: Sports are big in Denver, home to the Broncos (NFL), Rockies (MLB), Avalanche (NHL), Rapids (MLS) and Nuggets (NBA). Outdoor activities like hiking, skiing and rocking out at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre are big in Denver. Denver is a haven for cyclists and is home to trendy neighborhoods with national reputations like LoDo, Uptown and Wash Park.

Why Denver? Denver offers the opportunity to live fairly affordably within a major urban environment. Couple that with a relatively low crime rate, decent public schools, a solid economy and lots of stuff that young people like to do — bike, hike, ski and drink — and Denver starts to look like a great landing spot. The University of Colorado’s flagship campus is located in nearby Boulder, and there are four more colleges in the city with enrollments of 11,000 or more. These students keep Denver supplied with a steady stream of young people looking for degrees and starting careers while keeping things pretty chill.


20. Sunnyvale, California

Residents 18-34:  27%
Actual population: 143,315
Median home value: $710,700
Median household income: $48,712
Cost of living Index: 129
Unemployment rate: 6.1%

Popular industries: Welcome to Silicon Valley! Top employers include major space and defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman; tech giants Apple, NetApp, Yahoo! and LinkedIn, and IT/networking/hardware companies Juniper Networks, Hewlett Packard and Applied Materials.

Attractions: Attractions? You’re here to work. If you do get a chance to pull yourself away from your screen, Las Palmas Park is nice, the Sunnyvale Farmers Market provides farm-to-table goodness, the Socialight has a diverse menu, falafel restaurants are ample and you can dance away your workday torpor off at OPAL. San Francisco is just an hour towards the coast if you want to take a ride. But seriously, you should get back to work.

Why Sunnyvale? Money. It’s super-expensive to live in Sunnyvale, housing costs are through the roof and the cost of living can be eye-popping — but this is also the place where you can hobnob with the tech elite, launch an amazing career and make the fortune necessary to, well, live in Sunnyvale. Competition is fierce and not everyone can make it — but for the young, hungry and hyper-focused, the dream can become reality in Sunnyvale.

The Best Places to Live When You're Just Starting Out

Are you heading to the city?

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